What is the Best Place to Shop? | Varyer
What isthe Best?
Molly Butterfoss
March 2021

Hello, reader(s) (I hope). Congratulations for being brave enough to join me on this quest of altered perceptions, nuanced cultural interrogation, and mind-blowing scoops.

Each month, I tackle a new, hard-hitting query, based on the premise that in this busy age, we only have time for one thing: the best.

I will address modern humankind’s most urgent and divisive questions, such as:

  • What’s the best conceptual art?
  • What’s the best way to meet people?
  • What’s the best movie?
  • What’s the best time of day?
  • What’s the best job?

Some may say these questions have "no right answer," but that’s wrong.

It might seem overwhelming, but happily, in each case, there is an ultimate truth just waiting to be revealed. There is always a best, and I am here in service of it.

What is the best place to shop?

Honestly, probably ‘online, while drunk’ but let’s get into the spirit of this column and think about it for a minute. By deploying some proprietary metrics and indulging my frankly uncanny instincts, we’ll find that there’s plenty to unpack.

That said, sometimes you get lucky and the answer is in the first place you look.

I was in Italy with Kanye for my birthday. We went shopping and found the BEST [Ed. note: emphasis our own] stuff. We went to dinner and I changed halfway through dinner in a small bathroom into my new green Lanvin dress. There were so many paparazzi that showed up while we were eating. I wanted to change into a dope new look.

Kim Kardashian, 2015, reminiscing in her definitive tome, Selfish

But Kim, what’s the best stuff???

Never mind. Answering that question is actually my responsibility. By closely parsing Kim’s coy statement, I can infer that the ‘best stuff’ included the green Lanvin dress. Presumably, Kim and Kanye brought their shopping haul with them to dinner, and she sourced her Lanvin dress from said shopping haul.

So: according to the Pythagorean theorem, the ‘best stuff’ could only come from the ‘best place.’ At this point, the front runner is apparently Lanvin, or the Roman boutique that stocks the $3,700 Lanvin dress in question. At least, this was the best place to shop in 2015, which is fine. It’s nice to pretend we’re still in those halcyon days.

Kim’s aesthetic can be extreme, especially since Kanye got his bossy paws on her closet. Often, this can be intimidating; when someone is cultivating an extreme look (think Rei Kawakubo, any suburban goth, or Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde), there’s an uncomfortable, even combative subtext. They’re signaling that YOUR sad look is not to their liking. They would not be caught dead in any component of the outfit you’ve assembled. It’s true the same could be said in reverse—you may also be signaling that you wouldn’t want to wear their esoteric gear—but it’s more likely, and both parties know it, that you just didn’t think of it yet, or, worse, you did but were too scared to attempt it. Extremists are born via strenuous self-examination and active market study. Being bananas-looking takes intention and purpose, while the mainstream is an opt-out lifestyle from which most of us don’t bother to unsubscribe.

Kim, though, has been relentlessly documented for over two decades, and anyone who’s been following along can spot the original poser mall-girl of 1996 blushing beneath even her most bonkers looks. Therefore we confront less of a barrier; we can still comfortably self-project and wonder how some of her clothes might look on us. However, even if the dress looked great on me, I personally would never change mid-dinner out of a shopping bag. I don’t like showing off my purchases to anyone. I want people to believe I have always been this inherently stylish, or, if they dislike what I’m wearing, assume it’s laundry day and not something I’ve recently selected and paid for like a tasteless idiot.

In retrospect, it’s hard to believe how un-chill my first-week-of-school approach to fashion was. I debuted my freshest looks ASAP. In 1995, despite an unseasonably hot first day of school, I defiantly wore the pride and joy of my fall collection, a unique Kohl’s piece: a red crewneck sweatshirt embroidered with an unimpressed cartoon face—a sort of analog precursor to the emoji that would shortly come to dominate my life—and a caption bravely declaring WHATEVER. Since I’d blown my entire budget on this singular item, by the next day I was in my usual rags again.

One question lingers, all these years later, for both Kim and her dope dress and me and my sweatshirt. Was it worth it? I rarely am wholeheartedly confident in a purchase. (I assume it’s a sign of intelligence, actually; the ability to experience and synthesize complex, nuanced feelings, to live with challenging ambiguity.) It’s tempting to think my taste has improved over time, but has it? Fashion is a moving target. Consistently, at every stage of my life, I’ve looked at photos of myself from just a couple years earlier and been confounded by my style choices. It’s here that a women’s magazine would gently inform me that fashion is different from style. That failure to differentiate is probably the root of my struggle to try to assemble a coherent costume of identity.

Back to our investigation. If someone changes into new clothes mid-dinner, barring some sort of catastrophic spill, it could be because the ‘best’ stuff is simply that exciting, or it could be indicative of compulsion. While Kim has claimed in interviews to be a minimalist, her vast wardrobe (as seen on various episodes of her own television show) does not align with this claim. Denial is a hallmark of addiction. I can comfortably diagnose Kim as a clinical attention addict, and perhaps acute shopping is merely a means to that end, a symptom of her larger disease. Some of us, myself included, are actual shopping addicts.

I once had a roommate with a healthy credit limit whose room always smelled like new clothes. Not clean, new. I think that’s what first set me off. The scent evoked my beloved Kohl’s sweatshirt of yesteryear, my Rosebud 🌹, and I snapped. There was a time when my urges were focused, at least, on clothing and bodily accessories, and I could scrimp in every other material area of my life, staying one step ahead of bankruptcy by living in an echoey-empty apartment (the closet was stuffed, though). I only bought a dresser for the pleasure of seeing my brand-new shirts nestled within its drawers. Regrettably, my symptoms have progressed and I will now buy anything. I’m at an age where I’m particularly vulnerable to home goods and fine furnishings. If you, too, struggle with this, I’ve found it helps to pause and imagine: who will throw this away when I die? Because no matter what I buy, I will die someday, god willing. I want to be considerate towards the annoyed social worker who will have to clean out my future hovel. An artisanal bathrobe collection to add to the Goodwill pile will only compound her stress.

Barring self-control or mortal perspective, a consolation for the shopaholic is to read Buzz Bissinger’s nutso confessional about how he spent over half a million dollars on clothes. It’s safe for me to read because I don’t share his particular weakness—swashbucklingly corny leather goods from Gucci—but if you do, I caution you to steer clear of his sumptuous and likely triggering descriptions. Otherwise, it’s a wonderful tool to help you feel better about dropping $300 on that pair of Japanese socks and a handful of sweet little pebble-shaped erasers (my latest indulgence).

And with that dose of service journalism, I’ll sign off. What do you think—is the best place to shop Lanvin, or Kohl’s?